Efficiency, cost savings, and competitive advantages are likely the key reasons your startup needs an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. With so many features and options available, however, it may be hard to know which ones will be the best at helping you achieve those goals.
ERP vendors keep growing their offerings, particularly those in the cloud, and they are deepening their level of sophistication with greater artificial intelligence capabilities and advanced features.
This makes choosing the right system more challenging. It is especially hard for startups, which may not know yet what they need and are faced with both heavy workloads and a lack of the right personnel to properly select a new system.
While there’s no one right ERP solution for every business, there are key factors that most startups should consider. Here are seven factors that will make the process of selection easier.
1. Cost Sensitivity and Savings Over Time
The amount you pay for your ERP solution will depend on the complexity of your organization’s needs, how you expect the product to perform, and the number of users the system will support.
When evaluating potential ERP systems, you need full awareness of all the costs. Although an upfront investment is the best path for some businesses, a startup’s limited budget and resources may benefit most from a cloud-based subscription model; instead of allocating a large portion of funding to a capital expenditure, you can bake monthly fees into ongoing operational costs.
2. Flexibility and Scalability
Startups are always developing and refining their expansion plans, whether they involve new geographies, revenue streams, or both. A non-adaptive ERP solution will quickly become a bottleneck if you can’t easily expand the system as needs evolve.
Flexibility also is important for startups. So when evaluating ERP solutions, you’ll want to look for a solution that integrates with a wide variety of platforms and is easy to reconfigure and evolve as business models change or adjust.
3. Features Without Bloat
Many ERP platforms come with a soup-to-nuts array of features. But does your specific business really need all of them? One of the biggest mistakes that startups make when selecting an ERP system is getting lulled in by “nice” but ultimately unnecessary features that will be rarely used or bring unneeded complexity.
So look for a solution that makes it possible to hide or turn off features your business doesn’t need. This will make the user experience better, and will help your business avoid project creep during implementation.
4. A Modern Interface
A platform’s interface can have a negative impact on efficiency if it doesn’t measure up to today’s user standards. People have certain expectations about the apps and software they use in their everyday lives, and they don’t want to come to work and have to devote extra time to deal with a confusing interface. Employees have come to expect business software that acts like consumer software.
If nobody likes to interact with your ERP system, they may walk away from the business. When evaluating systems, look for a solution with a modern, clean design featuring a simple menu hierarchy and organized interface. Don’t pick a system that will require users to memorize shortcuts just to complete their work.
5. Reliable, Transparent Data
Although any solid business requires transparency, it’s especially important that your ERP solution ensures it. If you aren’t certain that your data will be properly preserved and secure, you won’t be able to trust the information in the system.
As part of this focus on data, make sure your ERP solution offers a wide variety of standard and custom reporting options, and includes robust analytics built-in or available as an add-on.
6. Strong Cybersecurity
You need to look no further than the daily news to see that cyber attackers are a constant threat to just about every type of business. A startup is no exception — and in some ways, your risk is even greater when you’re still in the process of establishing a strong business reputation and processes.
Larger companies have just as much exposure to cyber threats, but startups are even more challenged in this area because they tend to have leaner IT staffs and limited resources. Many cloud-based ERP solutions come with security features to ensure that you won’t have to worry about this issue. Make sure your system of choice makes data security easy.
7. A Large Support Community
No matter what solution you select, you undoubtedly will have some implementation headaches and questions along the way.
That’s why a critical but often overlooked consideration when selecting ERP systems is the reputation and support community behind the product. An ERP system with a narrow user base and an anemic ecosystem of consultants and third-party developers makes it much harder to get the support your business needs when things go wrong. And since ERP is complex software that powers your entire business, something will require assistance at some point.